Here's My Woodcarving!
by Doug Sullivan
Hoddles Creek, Australia
My wife and I retired 6 years ago and we spent 12 months deciding just what we would
do after selling our bicycle shop business. After much consideration, we decided on a
'Tree Change' and moved away from suburban Melbourne (yep, we're true blue
Aussies) and settled in Hoddles Creek. HC is a quiet little place that no-one ever
knows where it is. No surprising really as it is well off the main highway, has a
Primary school with just 40 or so kids, a cricket ground and a CFA station. That's all.
We weren't specifically looking for a property with a large shed but when the property
we bought came with a well constructed 20m x 12m shed, I was just a little bit
pleased. You see, I've always wanted to try my hand with wood but our old home of
30 odd years had a workshop that you couldn't swing a cat in (am I allowed to say
that?). It was just 2m x 3m. Suddenly having 240 sq metres was like being in seventh
heaven. I proceeded to fill it with lots of tools and machines, some of which I had
optimistically bought for my old 'workshop.' I made some bad decisions along the
way and sold several almost new (but cheap and nasty) tools and machines that just
weren't worth having. I replaced them with better quality (sometimes second hand)
items. I learned the hard way that cheap is cheap for a reason. Happily, I always try to
buy when there are good deals to be had and I never lost money along the way. In a
couple of instances, I actually made a profit.
I played around with my new toys and finally decided to try my hand at carving. I
jumped in and bought a set of 25 Pfiel carving chisels and watched a few YouTube
My first attempt was an 'exercise' piece (seen below) carving blossoms. It serves no real purpose
and my wife wants me to mount it horizontally on the wall with a hook under each
blossom to put keys on. It's a bit rough and inconsistent but whenever I make
mistakes on a piece of woodwork I just explain it away by saying I wanted a rustic
look. You can get away with a lot saying that.
My next piece was carved out of a
piece of an Ash tree that had to be felled because of rot. I found a picture on the web
of a Tudor Rose and copied it on to the wood. This was never meant to become a
finished piece. I just wanted to explore different techniques and get a feel for the
chisels. But part way through, I found myself getting quite involved in it. I finished it
and applied a light oak stain to the background and then a bees wax finish on the
whole piece. I'm fortunate here because my wife now keeps bees and this gives me a
modest supply of wax to use. Again, I have called this a 'rustic' piece of carving.
After the Tudor Rose, I thought I
would try something easier like this Celtic Cross. Big mistake! I thought the
geometric design would be simpler but, in fact, it was very hard and my cross was
nowhere near the image I copied. Lots of detail work and sharp corners in the pattern.
Several times, my clumsy hand broke little corners off which had to be glued back on
before I could proceed. I nearly gave it up as a bad idea.
I saw a video of some gloves being
carved and gave it a try myself. This is carved out of soft pine in one piece. The
background is larger than perhaps it needed to be because I originally wanted the gloves to be
a little offset. An irretrievable error made me align them and so the lower glove is
hard to see. A dark stain on the background to highlight the gloves and then a clear
satin varnish to seal the work.
And lastly, my Grape Spirit.
Hoddles Creek is in the Yarra Valley which is renowned for its wine so it was an easy
choice when I saw the book
Relief Carving Wood Spirits
by Lora S. Irish to try one
of her carvings. I actually got impatient when I ordered her book. I couldn't wait to try
this carving and had it finished before the book arrived. So it isn't nearly as good as it
might have been. Sigh.....now I'll have to do another.
I'm really enjoying this
hobby and, once I've taught myself some seriously bad habits, I'll get some lessons.
You can email Doug at
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